The Highland Council is proposing a below inflation council tax increase of 3% for 2022-23.
The increase together with a range of efficiency and management savings will be required to close the budget gap of £34m.
Inflation is a very significant factor in setting the budget for the coming year.
The rising cost of fuel, labour and materials impacts on both the Council’s direct and indirect costs and the level of budget pressures is much higher than it has been in recent years, a large part of which is due to £8.2m of contractual cost increases linked to inflationary factors.
A prolonged environment with high levels of inflation may lead to budget overspends, as well as widen budget gaps for future years.
The Council, however, recognises the impact of increasing inflation on households across the Highlands and therefore has proposed a rate much lower than the current CPI level of inflation.
A 3% increase on Council Tax Band D for 2022-23 is equivalent to an extra 77p per week.
Households in Council Tax bands A-D will automatically receive the Scottish Government’s £150 Cost of Living award.
When this is applied, those living in a Band D property will see their 22-23 council tax bill reduce by £110.03 (£2.12 less each week).
Just over 16,000 households in Highland qualify for means-tested council tax reduction and those in receipt of council tax reduction in council tax Bands E-H will also receive the Cost of Living Award.
If you are struggling to pay your heating bills, help and support is available.
The Highland Council’s Welfare Support Team provide free, impartial and confidential support to claim all benefits and entitlements including some help to heat your home.
Please contact the Welfare Support Team by telephone: 0800 090 1004 or email: email@example.com
Leader of the Council, Margaret Davidson said:
“We recognise the huge impact of rising food and fuel bills on people across Highland and so we have tried to absorb some of the pain of inflation by keeping the proposed rise in council tax to well below current inflation rates.
“The most vulnerable households will already be in receipt of council tax reduction which will mitigate any increase.”
Depute Leader, Cllr Alasdair Christie urged people to seek help if they are struggling financially.
“It is important that folk seek help at the earliest opportunity.
“Soaring energy costs are affecting the price of everything and as a Council, we know how much of an impact this has on our budget.
“It is also a really difficult time for every household budget, and I know this will be extremely worrying for many.
“There is always help and support available.
“The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) who have a specialist teams of advisers can help with welfare, debt and housing issues and can undertake a range of energy checks which are designed to help with reducing domestic fuel bills.
“CAB Advisers can be contacted on 01463 237664.”
Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Raymond Bremner added:
“We are always mindful of the impact that a rise in council tax can have on those on low household incomes.
“The Scottish Government’s £150 Cost of Living award will go some way towards helping many members of our community reduce their council tax bills this coming year.
“There may be other benefits or help that people are entitled to.
“They can call the Council’s Welfare Support team for free, impartial and confidential support on 0800 090 1004.”
Cllr Jimmy Gray, added:
“It is a legal requirement that Members agree the rates for Council Tax for the coming year before the 11th March and we understand that the majority of Local Authorities across Scotland are proposing council tax increases of 3%.”
The budget proposals will be considered by Council on 3 March 2021.